By Sharon Kwok
Taiwanese singer Annie Yi Nengjing (伊能静) has become a new darling among Chinese internet users after she expressed open support for Southern Weekly on Weibo and was eventually invited by Chinese security agents for “tea”.
It all started when Yi shared a coded message with her 6.3 million Weibo fans, in response to an opinion piece on Global Times which argued that ”media should be the watchdog for China’s national interest”. Her message read:
Yi’s first Weibo post re Southern Weekly
”Good boy, watch that door. As long as we are here, this place belongs to us. So if anyone says to you that this place is his, bite him. Good boy, watch that door. We have knives and guns, no one dares to come. So you don’t even need to bite, just barking is enough. Have you heard that dogs threaten others with the backing of their powerful masters? I’ve got your back, even if you’re not really a dog, you do better than one. Good boy, I butchered your kind, I’ll let you bite their bones. I’m rewarding you because your loyalty is my pride!” [Translation via Tea Leaf Nation]
The post, written in the imagined voice of the paper’s political masters, attracted 36,000 reposts but was deleted by censors within half a day. Yet Yi did not stop there, and went on to post a message containing a poetic reference to Southern Weekly, which has recently become a rallying point for free speech advocates:
”I’m not unaware that the south is already far away. So far that I can’t see the truth of it clearly, and all that remains is the moment of darkness. I’m not unaware that the south is already far away. That the many calls around us are already obviously to be in vain. A warning bell has rung signaling the end of the world, but I can’t see the person ringing it. He’s long fallen, because of the darkness left by the distant south.” [Translation via Tea Leaf Nation]
Feeling the heat from authorities, she posted a few more defiant messages directed at her ‘invisible tormentors’. Two of the most widely spread and applauded message read:
”Your rage tells me I am right; your concealment makes me believe I am righteous; your madness shows me my clear conscience, and your killing reminds me I am alive.”
”Covered eyes can still perceive light; muffled ears have keener hearing when surrounded with silence; sealed mouths can learn ways of communicating without speaking; shackled hands can realise freedom; the buried dead will live forever.”
She further quoted a celebrated misty poet Bei Dao, ”good men who remain silent may become allies of the evil”.
The next day, Yi was contacted by security agents and invited to meet up. She told her followers, ”I’m off to drink tea, hope it’s good”. “Drinking tea” is a commonly-used euphemism for the interrogation process by security officials that activists, dissidents and outspoken Internet users are sometimes subjected to. By the end of the day, this post together with previous ones regarding Southern Weekly were all deleted. Meanwhile, ‘Annie Yi’ reached the top of Sina’s trending list of search terms with nearly 90,000 searches.
After a few days of silence, Yi made the following post on Weibo, seemingly alluding to her struggle in the past few days:
”The first day he burned with passion; the second day he was angry and restless; the third day he cried and confessed; the fourth day he was calm…… he finally understood that this whole world is a dark comedy, and on the weekend he completely let go, and went back to being his blurred self.”
Later she announced that her book promotion events in China have all been cancelled for ”safety reasons”.
Yi’s upcoming photobook
Yi is one of many Taiwanese celebrities who have in recent years shifted their careers to the mainland. It is still unclear at this stage whether the Chinese government intends to ban her totally from appearing before mainland audiences.
Even if the controversy means the end of Yi’s career in China, she has at least won the hearts of many Chinese netizens. She has gained 400,000 more Weibo fans since she first posted about Southern Weekly, in less than a week’s time. A lot of them admitted that this incident has changed their opinion about her, and regarded her as a heroine. Some also compared her with Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong action movie star with a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth.